Skip to content

More to a social media crisis plan than meets the eye

September 6, 2011

This is a guest post by Evan Bloom, a crisis expert. If you are interested in a crisis plan, or talking about getting one, contact me or Evan. 

With the rise in social media usage and social media crises, there has been a lot written about social media crisis plans. Companies with a social media presence take the responsible step of having a crisis plan that protects them online.

There is a problem with some social media crisis plans. The consultancies providing them often have a basic plan that they sell to their clients. The risk in this approach is that not every company is the same, even if they are in the same industry and online. When it comes to online crisis plans and crisis management, ‘a one-size fits’ all mentality is exceptionally dangerous.

From my perspective, an online crisis management plan has to be an extension of a company’s own crisis management plan, just as an online PR plan should be an extension of its PR plan.

To plan for a crisis, whether it’s online or not, companies have to know where they are at risk and where they are vulnerable. The first step therefore is to conduct a vulnerability audit of both the online business and the ‘bricks and mortar business.’ Why both? Often, risks that exist in the physical world metamorphose into a crisis in the online world and crises that start in the online universe can transcend into the physical world. While many crises originate from defective products and accidents, a significant number start off with poor customer service and then go viral. Companies must be able to identify where they are at risk. This will facilitate the implementation of mitigation strategies and building of crisis communication and management plans around the common impact and outcome of crises.

This brings us to the second part of an effective online crisis management plan. Companies must review their customer relationship management (CRM) strategies. How a company formulates its policies and enforces them and how it deals with customers, whether it is in a store or via a call center could easily cascade into an aggrieved customer taking to the Internet to share their frustration.

The next step is to know what people are saying about you. So many companies make a critical mistake of ‘existing and communicating in a vacuum.’ They assume that if no one is complaining to them then nothing is wrong. While many consumers will e-mail or call a company to complain, and some will even use snail mail, there is a decent amount that will Tweet, Blog or Facebook about their experience. If the company is not monitoring the social media airways they will miss the first signs of a smoldering crisis.

The vulnerability audit together with a solid CRM strategy and the monitoring solution are the foundations on which the social media crisis management plan must be built.

The social media crisis plan must be formulated with alert, activation and response strategies. The alert strategy details what signs the company must look for to signal that a crisis is building or is imminent, the activation strategy will detail how and when the crisis team and plan should be activated and the response strategy will ensure that a proactive or reactive response is implemented, based on the situation. Having poor alert, activation and response strategies could cost a company its brand and reputation. These are very expensive assets to rebuild.

Of crucial importance is the role of the crisis communications team. It is highly advisable that companies do not have a separate online crisis communications team and a team responsible for dealing with crises in the ‘bricks and mortar world.’ There must only be one team. The reason is simple: What develops as a crisis in the day-to-day operations of a company can cascade into the online world and what starts out as an online crisis can develop into a crisis in the print and broadcast media. One team must respond with a uniform strategy and messaging approach.

Finally, the crisis management team must hold a yearly crisis exercise. Having a plan that has not been exercised or tested is useless – how do you know it will work?

Online crisis planning and management is a lot more complex than it looks.

Enhanced by Zemanta
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: